Monday, June 3, 2013

Thinking Outside the Book: Partnering to offer a Picture Book Walk

Picture Book Walk at Quail Ridge Park
With all the hullabaloo that is summer reading, it can be easy for youth librarians to forget about anything else that happens in the summer months. The sun is shining! The weather is warm! It's a perfect time to wander about outside!

Translation: It's a perfect time for a Picture Book Walk.

Around this time last year, Angela Reynolds shared her Nova Scotia library's StoryWalk™ on the ALSC Blog. The whole idea, I later learned, actually traces back to Anne Ferguson from Montpelier, VT, who came up with the first StoryWalk® in 2007. Since then, Anne has created a slew of resources for libraries with all sorts of funding situations to offer similar installations. The basic premise of a StoryWalk® immediately struck me as wonderfully boundary-breaking: a library/parks joint effort to give the community an opportunity to move and read outside. Brilliant! And so I started getting things in order to be able to offer a similar program in my community.

Today, June 3, is the official start date of our Picture Book Walk at Quail Ridge Park. We have opted to call our installation a Picture Book Walk because we are focusing specifically on the picture book as a visual and literary art form; we want people to engage with the entire book. All summer long, we're featuring Peter Brown's The Curious Garden--a book that seemed perfect to be read and enjoyed in a natural setting--on rustic handmade cedar signs at a county park near my branch. Brown's beautiful story and illustrations are featured in 17 signs, enough for an introductory sign in addition to the 16 full-page spreads of the book. The signs are spread along a 0.75-mile long paved trail; it's fully accessible to wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers of every age. A person who walks the trail will be able to read the entire book surrounded by bright green foliage. The whole experience, minus any extra time for contemplating the beauty of nature, takes about 20 minutes. A reasonable and restful interlude for a summer's day.

There are many reasons I love this project. Let me name a few:
A particularly picturesque view
  1. It promotes literacy and wellness for families in the community. Sharing a story and a stroll can feel luxurious, but it is simply healthful for mind and body.
  2. It allows the library to engage with a larger community than just those folks who already visit our branch. By offering a fun, family-friendly, and aesthetically lovely activity outside of the library, we're demonstrating that the library is truly a community treasure. We value the people we serve, whether we serve them directly or have yet to see them in a branch. We want their lives to be rich and interesting.
  3. We now have a partnership with our county parks department. This Picture Book Walk has truly been a joint effort, with the library and the parks department sharing ideas and tasks. The library procured permission from Little, Brown and Peter Brown to use the book; secured funding for the purchase of the sign post materials; and prepared the book pages for mounting. The parks department provided the location for the 3-month-long event; built the sign posts; and got the word out to media outlets across the metro St. Louis area. We both put in time and resources for a big ribboncutting and kick-off event (more details on that in a future post). As a result, we now have a working partnership. We know how to work together to get things done. The potential in this new relationship is vast.
  4. Summer reading has a new dimension. When reluctant readers complain about not knowing what they should read for summer reading, we can tell them about the Picture Book Walk at Quail Ridge Park. Enjoying the walk once counts as one step closer to meeting the summer reading goal for any age child. When the library is particularly busy and crammed full of people, we can offer the walk as an alternative for spending some time engaged in reading. It's an ultimate passive program.
  5. It's just beautiful. Really, isn't that sometimes sufficient?
I am thrilled to be able to offer the people in our community the chance to engage in reading and nature with the first ever Picture Book Walk in Quail Ridge Park. If you find yourself anywhere near the St. Louis area between now and the end of August, please stop by.

~~*~~

Curious for more details on how we got the walk up and running in the logistical sense? Here are some tidbits on what we did. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more specifics.
Laminating the picture book spreads
  • I contacted Peter Brown and Little, Brown before Christmas to get initial approval to use The Curious Garden. Technically, if the library owns the book and the picture book walk is free, formal permission isn't necessary. I think it's always better to have it, though.
  • The picture book pages that are mounted in the signs are physical pages from print copies of The Curious Garden. To get them walk-ready, I first took apart the binding and individual pages with the help of a colleague. Next I matched up the appropriate pages to maintain the order of the book; I attached them using book tape. I affixed the pages to matting with a walk footer on it (designed by my library district's graphic designer); this strip at the bottom of each spread includes logos for the library district, parks department, and library foundation, who funded the signs. Finally, I laminated the spreads to keep them weatherproof.
  • The cedar sign posts are sturdily fixed in the ground. The display portion is painted plywood with a plexiglass cover. Weather stripping seals the top and sides of the display portion, leaving the bottom open so moisture can escape.
  • The first and last signs, with the title page and final wordless two-page spread respectively, also feature some text from us, the organizers. An introductory statement explains the walk, and a closing paragraph encourages continued enjoyment of books and nature.

~~*~~

Has your library offered a similar event? What stories have been most successful?


16 comments:

  1. I have seen this idea before and it is absolutely wonderful. Love the idea of getting the children outside. Thanks for the step by step directions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Please let us know how the materials held up over the summer. Do you plan to change the book and do it again next summer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shelly, we have one or two signs that are in direct sunlight, and I'm starting to be able to tell that the colors in the images are fading. As of right now, the parks district and our library district hope to do the program again next summer with a new book.

      Delete
  3. Hi Amy, I absolutely love this idea. I wonder if you've tried to set up a Picture Book Walk in a neighborhood where children don't live in print-rich environments? I serve many families with low incomes and low levels of education, and I'd love to do something like this. Do you have any recommendations for how to launch a Picture Book Walk in such a setting?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, that's a great question. I think the consideration for offering a walk in a print-deprived neighborhood would be choosing the most appropriate book. I'd consider choosing a book that is simple/doesn't need to be read aloud to be understood (to accommodate for low levels of education). I'd also consider making sure that the book reflects the neighborhood culture--black characters if it's a predominantly black area, Latino characters and culture if it's predominantly Hispanic, etc. I would strive to make the book extremely appealing to community members since a busy, low-income, low-education community might not be inclined to seek out a literacy experience just by virtue of it being about reading. If it reflects their experience, though, that's another story. Perhaps choose a book that is very popular in your library/schools?

      Delete
    2. Amy, I just ran across this blast from the past and wondered if you did indeed choose a new book for the following year(s).

      Delete
    3. Shelly, the 2014 selection was BERLIOZ THE BEAR. The write up is here: http://showmelibrarian.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-second-annual-summer-readingpicture.html

      I left my position in Missouri for a job in Illinois at the end of summer 2014, so I didn't hear what the 2015 installation was for this project.

      Delete
  4. We are looking at adding a book walk to a local park, and I want to thank you for the information I have already gathered from your blog. We are planning on applying for a grant to cover the materials, but I am hoping you can share any info on the costs and how/who constructed the signs for your library.

    Thank you for any help you can give us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All of the wood for the mounts and stands was donated by the park district, as was the labor to design and put together the stands. The library foundation donated $400 to cover the cost of plexiglas and weather stripping to keep the pages dry. The only other costs were three copies of the chosen book, plus my time to take the book apart and laminate the pages.

      Delete
  5. Love your garden stands! We've done a garden walk in our library garden the last few years as a kick-off for our Summer Reading Program. Just wondering what other books you've used for your Picture Book Walk? We're trying to find something that works with the "Build a Better World" theme that would be appropriate for families in this kind of situation- not too wordy, etc..

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Amy. Would love to know what other books you've used for your Picture Walk? We've done a garden Picture Walk for the last few years as a kick-off for our Summer Reading Program and are looking for another book for this summer. Thanks! I also love your permanent stands, and would love to try and talk our Board into something like this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was only present for two of the walks at this library before I moved to a new job; we did The Curious Garden and Berlioz the Bear while I was there. I hope it goes well at your library!

      Delete
  7. Our library installed a very successful StoryWalk in a local park last summer - changing stories every week! We are researching permanent fixtures to install in the park. Yours look beautiful! Our Parks Dept wants to know if other StoryWalks have experienced any problems with graffiti, vandalism or liability issues from their signs. Did you have any issues?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Out partners at the Park Department added the Picture Book Walk to their usual security rounds, which meant regularly checking for vandalism of any kind. While, to my knowledge, we did not experience any, they were prepared with paint and marker removal supplies in the event they needed to cover up or remove anything.

      Delete